Craig Hignett: Tonight is the night for Hartlepool United’s fringe men to shine

Hartlepool Uniteds Michael Woods.

Hartlepool Uniteds Michael Woods.

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Tonight is the night for Hartlepool United’s fringe men to prove their worth, according to boss Craig Hignett.

The Pools manager looks set to ring the changes for this evening’s Checkatrade Trophy clash match with Rochdale at the Northern Gas & Power Stadium.

With nothing riding on it, as Pools already out of the competition and Dale already guaranteed to progress, some of the club’s younger stars and fringe men will be handed the opportunity to shine.

The gaffer has already suggested the likes of Brad Walker could be in line for a first-team return.

It could also be the perfect opportunity for Nicky Deverdics, Michael Woods and Matthew Bates to brush up in the match fitness stakes.

While the likes of James Martin, Jake Orrell and Ben Pollock, all youngsters in the development stage of their careers, could also see some gametime.

Of course, any changes the gaffer makes will have to within the laws of the game, which state Pools must field a strong side or risk sanction.

But Hignett is hoping to bend the rules enough to get as many of his squad players vital time on the park.

He said: “My plan would be to play a totally different XI if the rules allowed. But they don’t.

“I think we are going to have to manipulate the rules to suit ourselves.

“I will have to pick a team that abides by the rules of the competition, even though we have no chance of going through and Rochdale are already into the next round.

“The result of the game doesn’t matter but that is what we have to deal with.

“We will get on with it and get it out of the way.

“I am hoping to have a look at five or six players who haven’t been involved lately not just one or two.

“We know we have got players who are knocking on the door.”

Another of those players who could be ready to step in is defender Rob Jones.

Hignett has revealed that the centre-back was close to a return in the FA Cup at the weekend, but in the end was not risked.

Although, again Hignett will not throw the 36-year-old in unless he is 100%.

The manager explained: “If there is any doubt I would rather keep him for a league game.

“We will probably go with Batesy again against Rochdale and we will probably see how Rob is. He might get some minutes, he might not.

“We have a league game on Saturday so we have to be careful.

“We do wrap them up in cotton wool in training.

“Although, Rob just wants to train every day. He works like a beast.

“He needs to rain it in, even though he doesn’t want it.

“You do have to look after yourself more when you get older, he can’t bash about like he was when he was a kid.”